The Fountain of Youth

The York Community Pool

Tales of a Fountain of Youth – a legendary spring that restores youth to anyone who drinks from or bathes in its waters -- date to at least Herodotus and are mentioned in the Alexander romance and the stories of Prester John. The legend became particularly prominent in the 16th century, when aged Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de León searched for it in Florida, in 1513.

In Lukas Cranach’s depiction of The Fountain of Youth (Painting 17), 1547, the left side of the painting shows a barren rocky landscape, symbolic of old age.  We see wrinkled and frail old women being carried on carts and stretchers to the edge of the pool where they are undressed and examined by a doctor before entering the water. As they cross the pool a process of rejuvenation takes place, their wrinkles and old sallow skin disappear, their flesh becomes rosy and smooth, and they turn into young girls. When they emerge from the water, they receive new clothes and are reintroduced to the carefree pleasures of youth. The right side of the pool, where dancing, music and lovemaking, all take place in a lush flowering landscape is a stark contrast to the left. 

While the fabled fountain of youth is the stuff of myth, modern research has found that swimming three times a week can substantially delay the decline of such age markers as blood pressure, muscle mass, blood chemistry and pulmonary function. So a real Fountain of Youth may be as close as your nearest swimming pool.

Note:  Oil on Canvas reproduction of the original oil on panel from the Staatliche Meseensu Berlin, Germany




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